Satellite networks have always been thought by application providers and network operators as special eco-systems not always easy to integrate technically and commercially. Three years ago, Inmarsat initiated a significant development effort aiming to close this gap so that our services across our L-band, S- band and Ka-band satellites become easy to consume for a wide variety of customers (Certified Application Providers (CAP), Value-Added Resellers (VAR), individual end-users).
We strongly believe that, while connectivity anywhere as provided by Inmarsat is a key differentiator, it is equally important to recognise the advent of the new app economy driven by a new indirect channel and a new value chain.
The CAP is a key component in this new channel that allows Inmarsat to expand reach, deliver services to consumers and grow over-the-top revenues to the benefit of all parties across markets – on land, at sea and in the air.
Several key building blocks are enabling this vision:
- API (Application Programming Interfaces)
- SEP (Service Enablement Platform)
- NSD (Network Service Device)
Application Programme Interfaces
API is at the centre of our strategy. All development is an API development because all software is built as services. Rather than using web frameworks that invoke services and produce web pages, today’s applications are built by consuming and producing API’s.
APIs are offered to VAR’s to manage the conventional bandwidth services and terminals (provisioning, monitoring, billing) so that they can easily integrate Inmarsat services into their existing service management platforms.
API’s are also the way for CAP’s to manage their own bandwidth needs when required, to interact with pre-paid and post-paid users from within applications, to deliver files to remote locations and to consume them locally or to provide location-based services.
Service Enablement Platform
SEP is a set of diverse technologies with a front-end portal, allowing among others:
- VARs/CAPs to provision and monitor in real-time bandwidth services, with automated workflows hiding the complexity of our underlying infrastructure
- CAPs to schedule file delivery to remote sites
- Individual end-users to top-up their e-wallet and consume services.
SEP also includes a powerful billing platform that:
- Automates VAR billing for bandwidth services both at wholesale and retail levels
- Provides CAP billing for file delivery and bandwidth services
- implements innovative and automated commissioning schemes between Inmarsat, CAP and VAR
- Includes a full pre-paid platform (top-ups by credit card or e-voucher)
- Is API-driven to allow authorised CAP’s to post charges and payments against accounts and CAP/VAR to retrieve invoices
Last but not least, SEP also implements a seamless integration of our L-band and Ka-band satellites for remote sites fitted with a Network Service Device (NSD).
Network Service Device
The NSD is located on the remote, and is remotely managed by SEP. Customers having adopted the NSD can benefit from L-band back-up when Ka-band network is not available as a standard feature, included in the subscription fee.
In its hardware form, NSD is a Cisco advanced 2911 router fitted with a server slot-in module. Two types of server modules are being supported:
- SRE, which is only suited for the Inmarsat file reception software
- UCS, which will be delivered with a KVM hypervisor and with one Virtual Machine in charge of file reception – this can host other Virtual Machines to be managed and deployed by CAP/VAR’s (Bring your own Applications). KVM is commonly used in the maritime industry in smart boxes and should allow easy porting of existing applications.
Inmarsat also offers a Soft-NSD, allowing VAR and VAMs to use their existing smart boxes and integrate the NSD as a software component (‘’NSD inside’’). The Soft-NSD approach eases adoption as it facilitates the integration of NSD functionalities in existing VAR/VAM hardware eco-systems and enables delivery of the capabilities inside units meeting specific market and environmental requirements as encountered in governmental, machine-to-machine, automotive or aviation markets.
Virtualisation & Cloud
Above and beyond routing capabilities, the NSD or the smart box hosting the Soft-NSD is essentially a server implementing a hypervisor layer so that multiple Virtual Machines (VM) can run simultaneously sharing common hardware resources.
Inmarsat is currently extending SEP concepts to implement multi-tenanted Virtual Machines management. With this virtualization environment in place, not only CAP’s who need to run a remote server application will be able to deploy and manage their own VM on the NSD hosting appliance, but most of the existing cloud and software-defined networking technologies and solutions will become instantly applicable to our environment.
Value of Applications
Inmarsat’s vision is to allow all players (CAPs, VARs, VAMs) to access our entire customer base with no other constraint other than the NSD hardware/software technical boundaries.
Our objective is to add value to our Satcom eco-system and allow Internet Over-the-Top (OTT) players to enter this arena with no or minor modifications to their existing applications and solutions. A wide variety of applications can now be developed leveraging APIs and building upon our bandwidth services, our file delivery services and on our billing platform, like for example:
- Live video or voice applications running on personal devices leveraging individual end-user e-wallet and bandwidth services
- File-based applications (video <entertainment, training>, weather)
- Sensor-based applications running on remotes, delivering intelligent data to the cloud and being charged by the volume or as a monthly fee per remote
- Telemedicine applications requiring a high QoS bandwidth service over a short duration
About the author
Jerome Soumagne joined Inmarsat in 2011 as Senior Director of Services within Development and Engineering. Heading a group of business analysts and system experts in charge of service definition and design, he has dedicated most of his time to the Global Xpress programme and is familiar with the entire set of capabilities provided to VARs and CAPs. Jerome has in-depth experience of customer-facing services, having spent most of his 25-year career with B2C (SiriusXM, WorldSpace) and B2B (Airbus, Inmarsat) satellite service providers in various technology-centric roles. Jerome graduated from the French National School of Space and Aeronautics and from the University of Berkeley.